Washington's Christmas tree showdown: White House vs. Congress

The US Capitol tree, left, the White House Christmas tree, center, and the National Christmas tree, right, Washington. (AP photos)

WASHINGTON (ABC News) - President Obama took a break from boogying with Santa Thursday night to help light up the National Christmas tree.

The National Tree Lighting ceremony, co-hosted by actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, is part of a 91-year-old tradition – but the outdoor tree isn’t the White House’s only iconic evergreen. There are 26 others, including an official East Wing tree.

Congress has its own Capitol Christmas tree, across town on the West lawn. With help from House Speaker John Boehner, 10-year-old Aaron Urban flipped the switch earlier this week.

Since the legislative and executive branches aren’t getting along particularly well these days, we decided to pit the decorations from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue against the other. (Yeah, we’re all about the Christmas spirit.)

Here’s a (not-so-scientific) ABC News analysis:


Towering at 88 feet, the Capitol Christmas tree, a white spruce from Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest, definitely gets top billing for height.

A distant second place goes to the 29-foot National Christmas tree. Unfortunately, the national tree, a live blue spruce transplanted to the Ellipse in 2012, has a decidedly flat top this year. The tip cracked off during a storm last fall, shrinking the tree by about two feet.

Piddling in comparison, the 18-foot White House tree never really stood a chance. It just barely squeezed through the doors of the Blue Room, where the chandelier had to be removed to accommodate the new arrival.

But size isn’t everything, right?

Winner: Capitol TreeAdvantage: Congress

Highest Tech

Washington has seriously geeked-out Christmas.

At the White House, decking the halls went digital this year. The White House tree is bedecked with 3-D printed ornaments, submitted by technology enthusiasts nationwide.

(If you happen to have a 3D printer handy, you can re-create the First Family’s Christmas decor in your home by downloading the winning ornament designs here.)

The National tree display also incorporates some technological trimmings. The smaller state and territory trees surrounding the main tree – also known as the “pageant of peace” trees – feature lights hand-coded online by kids (and some enthusiastic adults) via Google’s #MadeWithCode project.

(Want your own code to light up the ellipse? Program a display here and it will illuminate your state tree for a few minutes this holiday season.)

Winner: National TreeRunner Up: White House TreeAdvantage: Obama Most Meaningful

The White House tree, hands down.

One of 26 holiday trees at the Executive Mansion, the “America the Brave” themed official tree, honors gold star military families.

Sprinkled in between the 3D ornaments and other patriotic décor are coloring book pages decorated by kids as a thank-you to the brave men and women who have served overseas.

Winner: White House TreeAdvantage: Obama

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off